Our early literary heritage, what is it really? This course presents Bible through critical method in historical and philosophical context. Classic Torah study, Midrash, seeks meaning in revealed words that we can apply in our lives. MAJOR THEMES will be a study of ancient texts, examining the quality of the writing, the ideas, and the impact of our ancestors on us. We are interested in what they thought about the world, about good and evil, about God. Reading very old documents can be a challenge but it is the way to taste the good stuff our story tellers, poets, and philosophers contributed to the world.

WHAT'S GOING ON HERE? Reading the Hebrew Bible for Pleasure, Ideas and God
Rabbi David L. Kline

            Introductions: Cosmogeny. Genesis 1-2, “The First Week.”
To prepare for the opening class, read Gen 1:1-2:4a.  My translation of the two stories:
An essay on the two stories:

Here’s translation of the jargon used in Bible studies: Each section of Bible is called a "book," even if it has only one chapter.  Books, except for Ovadyah, are divided into chapters. Chapters have verses and verses generally are dividable into first part and second part, labeled "a" and "b". Genesis is the first book of the Bible. So the reading assignment is Book of Genesis, chapter one, verse one, through chapter two, the middle of verse four. Feel free to read more. The assigned reading is what I hope we'll cover in class.
In this class we use Hebrew pronunciations to help get closer to the sound and sense of the ancient document. Note “Ovadyah” in the preceding paragraph, instead of “Obadiah” Most of the transliterations found in English Bibles come to us via Greek and Latin versions. We simply render the Hebrew writing into English letters, e.g. “Avraham.” Further, for simplicity and clarity, in this syllabus we refer to Hebrew Bible as “Tanach,” acronym for: Torah (Pentateuch) - N’vi’im (Prophets–Y’hoshua through Malachi) - K’tuvim (Writings–Psalms through Chronicles).
            I recommend Wikipedia articles at your first sign of curiosity. Here’s one that has to do with who wrote Hebrew Scriptures, when, how, and why. There is no end of views on this subject on the Web. What we call "The Documentary Hypothesis" is one of the tools of critical reading of Bible.
            Here is a link to How to Read the Bible, James Kugel, from NY Times Book Review, 9/16/07.
Who Wrote the Bible, Richard E. Friedman, 1997, is a further exposition of the Documentary Hypothesis.

            The Garden,” Gen 2:4b-25, the other story. Could you harmonize “The Garden” with “The First Week?” Which story makes more sense as a description of the world as we know it?

            Antedeluvian Conditions Genesis 6-9 I have prepared a document called "Flood Story Deconstructed" set in parallel columns.  Where the two Creation stories were presented one after the other (in reverse order, to be sure) the two Flood stories, J and P, are sandwiched together so that there is overlapping and redundancy.  Following literary clues, it is possible to separate them out into something resembling the original writings. This makes it easier to read and comprehend.

            Postdeluvian Conditions Genesis 6-9 See above mentioned deconstruction. Here is a fine translation of the Babylonian Flood story, where Utnapishtim is the ark builder:
The first two thirds of the tablet are relevant to Genesis. How could these two stories be so similar? What do they tell us about Babylonian and Tanach authors?

            Moral revolution. Ethical God. Amos 1-7.  Here's a reading guide to these chapters:
Consider: religion.  Consider: morality.

            Who's a Prophet? Hosea the homeletician 1-4. Jeremiah, poet, thinker, critic 1, 7:1-28. Here is a redacted version of the first few chapters of Hosea to ease the reading:
The Jeremiah chapters are straightforward. Bear in mind that Hosea is 8th century contemporary of Amos; Jeremiah is 6th century, near the end of the monarchy, contemporary with Deuteronomy. What does it mean to say: “Thus says god.”

            Deuteronomy, the First Edition of the Book of Torah, Jerusalem, 622 BCE.  Read Deut 5-14. See 2 Kings 22:1-13 for publication story.  (For more on D/Deuteronomist, click on the above Wikipedia link or just do a search.) In Deuteronomy look for relationship between Israel and Yah, laws and ordinances, reward and punishment (retribution) attached to the laws.  Keep in mind the teachings of Amos and Hosea two centuries earlier. Here is a reading guide for the whole book of Deuteronomy:

            Monotheism and mission, DeuteroIsaiah 40-42. The 66 chapters of Book of Isaiah include the writings of at least 3 people.  For a taste of Isaiah of Jerusalem, try Is 1.  A contemporary of Amos, he criticized injustice and reliance on religious rituals.  TritoIsaiah (chapters 60-66) seems to be post exilic, talking about a restored Jerusalem. Our subject, the author of chapters 40-59, seems to be writing from Babylonia, before the return from exile.  He is a theologian, introducing monotheism and a new approach to the special relationship between Israel and Yah.

            Ancient wisdom Proverbs 1-3, 10; Ecclesiastes 1-3, 12. Read this as an entry into our ancestors' minds. Agree or argue. Enjoy the nicety of nuance and prepare to be amazed at their scope of thought.

            Sing a Song of Eros: Song of Songs 1-8. Jewish erotica? Why haven’t we paid it more attention? The great rabbi Akiba, philosopher and leader, argued against his colleagues who wanted to keep Shir HaShirim out of Tanach: “God forbid that anyone of Yisrael doubt that Song of Songs impurifies hands. For the whole world is not as worthy as the day on which the Song of Songs was given to Yisrael. For all the Writings are kodesh, but the Song of Songs is kodesh kodoshim.” (Mishnah, Yadayim 3:5)

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